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Energy stored in electric car batteries could be used to power homes

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

A UK-wide innovation project is exploring how vehicle-to-grid charging technology could make money for electric car and van owners and contribute to the decarbonisation of the energy grid.

With vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, electric vehicle (EV) batteries could store electricity - when there is an abundant supply - to power homes and businesses and discharge it back to the national grid when it is most needed.

This enables better use of renewable energy, lower carbon footprint, less pressure on the grid and financial savings, which can help electric vehicle owners pay back their investment.

During the course of this year, the EV-elocity project has been deploying V2G chargers in a range of locations across England to as part of large-scale trials to gain technical, customer and commercial insights on the emerging technology. It is also investigating if, and how, additional use from V2G charging may affect EV battery life.

The project, led by Cenex, a not-for-profit consultancy specialising in delivery of low carbon vehicles and energy infrastructure projects also involves the Universities of Nottingham and Warwick; Leeds and Nottingham City Councils; and CrowdCharge, a platform that integrates and optimises smart electric vehicle charges. EV-elocity is funded by the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV), in partnership with Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation.

Chris Rimmer, Infrastructure Strategy Lead at Cenex, said: “After restarting the project in mid-2020, we are delighted to be testing V2G with such a range of sites and hardware. We’ll be working hard over the coming months to examine the cost, carbon and conditioning benefits of V2G, and publish our results as they become available.”

“Cities saw a huge drop in CO2 levels during lockdowns and installing V2G technology could help to reduce emissions from transport and electricity production long-term while also improving energy system capacity and reliability and increasing consumption of locally-generated renewable power."
Professor Lucelia Rodrigues, EV-elocity’s University of Nottingham lead
Professor Lucelia Rodrigues, EV-elocity's University of Nottingham lead

“At present, peak demand for energy is 5-8pm when most people are at home, but renewable sources, such as solar panels, generate most power when electricity demand is low. Therefore, there is an urgent need to resolve this disconnect and find a way to increase the grid’s capacity to store excess renewable power to reduce pressure on the energy system’s infrastructure.”

“Why invest in a battery for your home if you have a car with a battery? V2G enables us to optimise resources and make the most of our assets, rewarding us with financial returns and a reduced carbon footprint.”

With V2G technology, EVs could help to support grid resilience when parked and plugged-in. Instead of installing huge and expensive community battery stores, an extensive network of EV batteries could be harnessed to absorb energy when renewable generation is plentiful and export it back to the grid during peak demand when carbon intensity is highest for a profit, making money back for users in the process.

The project is installing multiple V2G charging demonstrators at sites owned by organisations -including city councils, universities and police forces - that employ large electric vehicle fleets. Latest data suggests that if the 5.3 million fleet vehicles on UK roads today were to switch to EV, it would save as much as 25 per cent of all UK transport emissions.

“Company cars and vans tend to earn money while out on the road, but electric vehicles could also be a source of income when they’re parked up. We know cost is a major factor deterring mass adoption of electric vehicles, but if V2G charging helps EV owners get a quick return on their investment, it could make purchasing electric vehicles a much more attractive option to a bigger customer base.”
Dr Julie Waldron, Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham
  • With the biggest electric fleet of any local authority in England, Leeds City Council has installed 5 V2G chargers under the EV-elocity project
  • The University of Nottingham, another user of EV fleets, has installed two V2G units on its main campus
  • Cenex installed one V2G charger at Loughborough University Science and Enterprise Park, one charger at Worcestershire County Council and two chargers at West Midlands Police.
  • University of Warwick installed three chargers on campus to be used by the Estates fleet
  • Nottingham City Council, which also has a large electric vehicle fleet and a very ambitious target to become carbon neutral by 2028, is planning to install 40 units

Using data from V2G chargers and trackers in EV cars, and user behaviour analysis on the study, researchers are examining mobility patterns, EV charging requirements/trends, battery degradation, and electricity generation, storage and use.

“Understanding the patterns of vehicle usage will allow us to evaluate the best charging infrastructure required for EVs, for example the locations and type of charging points and plugs (which currently vary between car brands), compatibility with V2G, charging periods and energy demand, etc. This will enable us to rethink the system and inform the users’ decision-making process in order to maximise benefits for consumers and the planet,” Dr Waldron adds.

Case study

University of Nottingham

Researchers from the Transport, Mobility and Cities and the Building, Energy and Environment research groups are studying user behaviour in EV-elocity demonstrator trials. They have also developed a V2G case study that will be tested at the University Park Campus. The project fits in well with the University’s commitment to use innovative technologies to make its campuses smarter and more sustainable to enhance the user experience and reduce its carbon footprint. The campus’ infrastructures and services operate very much like those of a small town, so it is a great testbed for technology implementation prior to installation in real cities.

University Park campus uses different types of fleets, in terms of users, routines, parking location and dwell times. This behaviour data was analysed and correlated with other parameters such as routes and movement patterns, renewable energy availability on site, grid cost and grid energy carbon emissions to identify the most promising charging pattern and infrastructure to deliver financial and carbon savings, improve battery life and maximise local renewable energy consumption.

Under EV-elocity, two V2G units have been installed on University Park campus and will be collecting data until March 2022 to identify whether proposed usage delivers against the targets set.

Story credits

More information is available from Professor Lucelia Rodrigues at Lucelia.Rodrigues@nottingham.ac.uk or Emma Lowry, Media Relations Manager on or Emma Lowry, Media Relations Manager (Engineering) on 0115 84 67156 or emma.lowry@nottingham.ac.uk

Emma Lowry - Media Relations Manager Engineering
Email: emma.lowry@nottingham.ac.uk
Phone: 0115 846 7156
Location: University Park

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Notes to editors:

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. Ranked 103rd out of more than 1,000 institutions globally and 18th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings 2022, the University’s state-of-the-art facilities and inclusive and disability sport provision is reflected in its crowning as The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021 Sports University of the Year. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally. Alongside Nottingham Trent University, we lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, a pioneering collaboration which brings together the combined strength and civic missions of Nottingham’s two world-class universities and is working with local communities and partners to aid recovery and renewal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

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